Mom gets son thrown out of his own house
Scathing accusations fly in court scrap over rights to occupancy
A bitter six-year battle between a mother and son over a Cotswold home finally ended when the son was evicted – despite legally owning the property.
Barbara Sturdy, 77, and her son, Maurice Pirzenthal, 50, have for years tried to force each other to leave, with alleged dirty tactics laid bare in court papers.
Sturdy sold the home to Pirzenthal in 2012, but holds a usufruct on the house, which gives her the legal right to use and benefit from the property.
Now Pirzenthal and his 12 tenants – who rent rooms under the umbrella of Pirzenthal’s registered non-government organisation (NGO), Rags to Life Safe Haven – must vacate the premises by May 30.
The missionary work Pirzenthal claimed to do formed part of his battle against eviction as he said neither he nor his tenants could afford to rent elsewhere.
Sturdy claimed her son neither worked as a missionary nor ran an NGO.
She said in her court papers that his Facebook page “is littered with entries of a sexual and suggestive nature, often connected to the consumption of alcohol. Thus I am not sure where he finds time for missionary work”.
She said Pirzenthal used the house solely to make money from his tenants and, for this reason, had tried to have her admitted to a mental institution.
Tensions between the two had heightened after Pirzenthal bought the home, when he sidelined her – putting her into a corner of the house which had been the “servant’s quarters” without her consent and said he would subdivide the house for tenants.
This went against her usufruct rights, she said.
Her claims, however, were nothing compared with Pirzenthal’s.
In his affidavit, he accused his mother of stealing, flinging faeces at his tenants and brandishing a knife while she walked around the property. He said he had not been aware of the rights granted to his mother.
“Unbeknown to me and due to financial constraints, the conveyancer attending to this registered a usufruct over the property,” he claimed.
“Her attitude and actions became progressively more outrageous, bizarre and irrational, so much so that I was compelled to have her admitted to an appropriate institution.
“The application was, however, stopped due to threats from [her] attorney to obtain an interdict.”
Pirzenthal did obtain a protection order against Sturdy – as she did against him – and installed CCTV cameras on the property.
He said he had footage which showed Sturdy flinging faeces and stealing from his tenants’ rooms.
In their affidavits, the tenants claimed that Sturdy had threatened them with a large knife, that she would “deposit rubbish” around the premises, and in some circumstances had thrown faeces at the house.
One tenant, Johan Greeff, said: “Living on the property has become scary and unbearable.”
Sturdy admitted to walking around with a knife, saying she had started to do so after a mugging close to the property.
She maintained that her son and his tenants were unlawful occupiers, and that Pirzenthal could afford to find alternative accommodation. She also said he had besmirched her name, telling tenants to stay away from her and calling her a “witch b*tch”.
In her court papers, Sturdy said: “I am astounded that he claims never to have besmirched my name.
“In [his affidavit], he has called me a manipulative person and a serial liar, a professional prostitute, a con artist par excellence, a shoplifter and a fraud.”
She also said that much of what Pirzenthal had claimed in his affidavit was irrelevant to the matter.
For Judge Glenn Goosen, who handed down judgment, the eviction was based on the legalities around Sturdy’s rights and Pirzenthal and his tenants’ ability to find alternative accommodation.
Glossing over the terrible relationship between the pair, he concluded it was clear that Pirzenthal had set about converting the property to bring in tenants and create a profitable business, something that went against the usufruct.
Goosen also found that he and his tenants were in a position to find other accommodation.
He said it would be just and equitable to allow both parties three months for Pirzenthal and his tenants to vacate the property.
Pirzenthal was ordered to pay all costs related to the application.
He expressed deep disappointment at the outcome.
“I am too sick to work and I don’t have money left, so I’d end up on the street,” he said.
“The worst thing is that all these [tenants] would be out on the street as well.”
However, he indicated that his lawyer would be preparing a separate application for habitatio, which would limit Sturdy’s rights to living in the cottage that she is in.
Sturdy declined to comment on the outcome.